All human beings are born free and equal. Our society must provide an environment which is:
Equal for every human being
Dignified for every human being
Safe for every human being
After 67 years off Independence it is highly unfortunate for us that we are still struggling to get these basic and fundamental Human rights for all. Human rights identify the worth of each person and their relationship with their fellow beings, surroundings and society. These rights recognize standards regarding the quality of life that each of us can expect to enjoy.
Human rights are universal, inherent and undeniable and exist as a birthright; however, to be effective they need to be supported not only by law but also by the entire society. Awareness and alertness of society is the most important ways to assuring and enforcing them.
Indian constitution recognized Equality as a fundamental right and promises Equality before law for all its citizens (Part III, Article 14). As per Equality before law, the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Unfortunately racial and sexual discrimination has been a major concern in our society. Even after centuries of development, advancement and achievements in a variety of fields we are still not free from the evils of various kinds of discrimination. It has also subject of major legislative and policy initiatives in the government of various countries.
What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexually determined behaviour towards a woman in a workplace such as:
Physical contact or advances,
Demanding /asking/requesting for sexual favours
Making sexually tinted remarks
Cracking lewd jokes
Circulating lewd rumours
Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
When did Policy for addressing sexual harassment in work place formed? The Sexual harassment at workplace Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 2nd of September 2012 and came into existence as 'The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.'
Who need to implement sexual harassment policy? Every company/ organization with a staff of more than 10 people and have women working, as employee, interims, part time employment, temporary employment, is required to adopt sexual harassment policy at every office or branch.
What are employer's obligations regarding sexual harassment policy and how it can be implemented? Employer must treat sexual harassment as misconduct and shall have a mechanism to initiate action for such misconduct. It is duty of every employer to ensure a safe and favourable working environment for its female employees. Employer shall also be responsible for the following:
Constitute a committee known as an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’
ICC must have a four member:
Senior female employee as chairperson ,
Minimum two more employees as member,
One member from any NGO working in the field of women empowerment.
Prohibit, prevent and discourage any acts of sexual harassment.
Properly implement the sexual harassment policy and adhering to all the specification.
Implementation of recommendations of the Complaints Committee (as defined hereinafter)
Sensitizing employees about sexual harassment issues.
Create awareness about the Policy amongst its employees. Policy must be easily accessible to all the employees.
Generate awareness about the policy through, notifications, circulation and publication of the same.
If a complaint is made by any female employee it is mandatory for employer to look into the complain of sexual harassment in their office.
Employer is responsible for providing fair and impartial procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.
Employer will provide/arrange for counselling both the complaint and the accused. Employer will make them aware of all implications of filling/ not filling a complaint formally.
In a situation where ICC become aware of any act(s) of sexual harassment, the employer shall have the right to initiate "suo motu" action, even in the absence of a formal complaint by victim employee.
In the event of sexual harassment in the office employer can consider some interim reliefs for aggrieved employee such as:
Transfer of the aggrieved woman employee or the respondent to any other workplace;
Granting leave to the aggrieved woman employee (up to a period of 3 months in addition to her regular statutory/ contractual leave entitlement).
The employer is also required to monitor the timely submission of reports by the ICC.
In event the employer failing to follow the guidelines; he is liable and can be fined up to the INR. 50,000. A repetition of the same offence could result in the punishment being doubled and / or de-registration of the entity or revocation of any statutory business licenses.